Just four days after upsetting the first-half West Division champion Forest City Owls for their first victory of the second half of the 2023 Coastal Plain League season, the Asheboro ZooKeepers run-ruled the Owls in a dominant 14-3 victory on Wednesday night.
The win is Asheboro’s third straight victory overall and second consecutive against a CPL opponent. This was the first time this season Asheboro has won by way of the run rule, which allows a team to win when up by at least 10 runs through seven innings.
Head coach Korey Dunbar said he hopes the momentum from the team’s recent run of good form can continue in the second half of the season.
“Definitely the three wins in a row help,” Korey Dunbar said. “If we can continue what we’re doing on a daily basis, the results are going to take care of themselves. Kudos to these guys for battling it out, especially after the first half. They’re continuing to put things together as we go.”
Win Scott, who was one of three Zooks named to the CPL’s West Division All-Star team on Monday, got the start on the mound. He surrendered two singles but got out of the jam to send the game to the bottom of the inning.
The ZooKeepers quickly went to work, as singles from Jay Dillard and Cooper George followed by a Jared Beebe walk loaded the bases for Owen Blackledge. On the first pitch, Blackledge made strong contact with the ball and an Owls error allowed the Zooks to clear the bases as Blackledge advanced to third.
After a scoreless top of the second by Scott, Asheboro’s bats stayed hot in the bottom half. With two outs and Jay Dillard on base after a walk, Alex Lodise launched his second home run of the season over the McCrary Park outfield wall to put the Zooks up 5-0.
Forest City plated its first run in the top of the third to trim Asheboro’s lead but the ZooKeeper offense did more damage in the bottom half. Blackledge delivered his second hit of the night with a one-out single before Todd Hudson hit his second home run of the season in the next at-bat to make it a 7-1 game. Both of Hudson’s home runs have come against the Owls.
For the first and only inning of the night, the Zooks went scoreless in the fourth but maintained their 7-1 advantage thanks to another stellar inning by Scott. However, the Owls applied some pressure in the top of the fifth with a pair of runs against Scott, forcing Asheboro to call on Jacob Halford out of the bullpen. Halford entered with one out and went strikeout, groundout to maintain the 7-3 lead heading to the bottom of the frame.
The first two Zooks batters in the fifth flew out but that did not stop Asheboro from having a big inning. Jarrett Pokrovsky and Dallas Callahan hit back-to-back singles and Lleyton Lackey joined them on base with a walk. In the next at-bat, Dillard scored Pokrovsky with a single, keeping the bases loaded. Another Zooks run scored off a wild pitch and Lodise brought Lackey home with a single.
The Owls proceeded to hit consecutive Zooks batters with pitches to load the bases and then score Dillard from third. Then, Blackledge, who led off the inning for the ZooKeepers, came back up to the plate and notched his third hit of the night to score two more runs, making the score 13-3. The six runs scored in the fifth are the most for Asheboro in a single inning this season.
With another scoreless inning from Halford in the books and already in position for a run-rule win, Asheboro added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth as another Forest City wild pitch brought home a Zooks runner. Halford went on to close out the game in the seventh, giving Asheboro its largest victory of the season.
Asheboro’s 14 runs were a season high and their 14 hits were the most since registering 15 against the High Point-Thomasville HiToms on June 23. Seven of Asheboro’s nine starters posted at least one hit and all nine reached base at least once. Lodise and Blackledge led the way with three hits while Dillard, Callahan and George each had two knocks.
Head coach Korey Dunbar said he was pleased with his team’s mentality at the plate throughout the night.
“I thought all of them had really a good approach and just put themselves in good positions to hit and positive counts and got some stuff to hit and did some damage to it,” Dunbar said.
This game started a run of six contests in six days for the ZooKeepers leading into the All-Star break. Asheboro returns to the road for the first time in 10 days tomorrow as they travel to Martinsville for a matchup with the Mustangs. Now 2-3 in the second half and just three games out of first place, Dunbar said he wants the team to take it one day at a time to get back into playoff contention.
“It’s a new day tomorrow, and then after that, and then a new day after that,” Dunbar said. “We’ve got to clear the register and move on to the next day, and once that day’s over, move on to the next one. Again, those things will take care of themselves as long as we’re playing good baseball at the right time.”
Asheboro’s game against the Mustangs tomorrow will begin at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on FloSports and on Mixlr. The Mixlr stream with ZooKeepers broadcaster Graeme Simpson can be accessed by clicking here.
Written by Jacob Kisamore